Moses and Frances Asch
Collection

Moses Asch (1905-1986) founded Folkways Records in 1948. Through the record label, Asch sought to document the entire world of sound. The 2,168 titles he released on Folkways include traditional and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word in many languages, and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, and current events. Folkways grew to be one of the largest and most influential record companies in the world.

The Smithsonian acquired Folkways Records, along with the label’s business papers and files, from Asch and his wife Frances in 1987, forming Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Every album is kept in print.

In 2015, the Moses and Frances Asch Collection was inscribed to UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register, a catalog preserving a promoting the world’s documentary heritage. It is the second Smithsonian collection added to the Memory of the World International Register, and one of only eight collections from the United States to be recognized.

Folkways Records founder Moses Asch in his office.

Folkways Records founder Moses Asch in his office. Photo by Diana Davies, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

The Asch Collection includes:
  • Recordings owned by and produced by Moses Asch (acetate disc, 78s, LPs)
  • Master tapes for Folkways Records
  • LPs for most of the the 2,168 titles released by Folkways Records
  • Business papers and correspondence
  • Artwork for various Folkways recordings
  • The Woody Guthrie Papers
  • Photographs
Folkways Records founder Moses Asch in his office.

Folkways Records founder Moses Asch in his office. Photo by Diana Davies, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

"The real owners of Folkways Records are the people that perform and create what we have recorded and not the people that issue and sell the product."
— Moses Asch